Norris lands pounds 150,000 roads lobby job

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The Independent Online
Steve Norris, the former transport minister, is well on the way to achieving his goal of making large amounts of money after he secured a pounds l50,000 job to head a lobbying group for lorry hauliers.

Mr Norris, who is to leave Parliament at the next election, resigned as transport minister in July because he said he could no longer afford to live on the salary and will take up the post of director-general of the Road Haulage Association in May, the probable month of the general election.

The appointment was immediately criticised by Labour. Brian Wilson, one of the party's transport team, said: "The impression of ministers legislating for the future lining of their pockets is hugely reinforced. This is a disgraceful transition from ministerial office to one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in the country. If this is allowed under the rules, there is something wrong with the rules."

Mr Norris who had already been considered as possible head of the Automobile Association and who is also likely to take up a one-day-a-month chairmanship of Capital City Bus, a London bus company, defended the appointment as having been approved by the Carlisle committee which vets former ministers' business appointments. He said the job is a fascinating challenge: "The truck is the least-loved element in the transport system and yet the most vital. While I will continue to do everything to ensure more freight is carried on rail, the reality is that most truck journeys are for 50 miles or less and there is no alternative."

It is not surprising that Mr Norris, who is widely liked both inside and outside Parliament ,was much sought after because of his media-friendly personality, to say nothing of his female-friendly personality which made him famous as the man with five mistresses, all featured prominently in the tabloids. However, it is completely unexpected for Mr Norris, who as transport minister was more effective than any other politician at toning down the roads-obsessed transport policy, to get into bed with the rabidly pro-roads RHA.

Mr Norris says he has not changed his views: "I have told them I am not going to argue for a massive road-building programme and the old `predict and provide' policies of the 1980s. I quite accept that some restrictions on lorries are perfectly reasonable but I will be arguing that local authorities must provide alternatives such as feeder distribution points on the outskirts of towns."

Mr Norris replaces the completely unknown Bryan Colley in the job and will bring a much more high-profile approach to the RHA. Privately, it is thought he is sceptical of the approach of the roads lobby, led by the British Roads Federation, which has continued to argue for massive road-building programmes which are now seen by the public as completely unacceptable. Mr Norris who was widely respected in the Department of Transport will undoubtedly be very useful at lobbying behind the scenes as well as being the public face of the lorry.